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Is inequality justified? Financially insecure left behind

May 6, 2015

Opinion article published in the Duncan Banner.

Is Inequality Justified? Financially insecure left behind
“In his book entitled, “The Price of Inequality – How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future,” Joseph E. Stiglitz stated, “In the battle over public policy, whatever the realpolitik of special interests, public discourse focuses on efficiency and fairness. In my years in government, I never heard an industry supplicant looking for a subsidy ask for it simply because it would enrich his coffers. Instead, the supplicants expressed their request in the language of fairness–and the benefits that would be conferred on others (more jobs, high tax payments).
The same goes for the policies that have shaped the growing inequality in the United States–both those that have contributed to the inequality in market incomes and those that have weakened the role of government in bringing down the level of inequality. The battle about “framing” first centers on how we see the level of inequality–how large is it, what are its causes, how can it be justified?”
As long as “Big Money” knows there is an “open door” to our lawmakers – whether federal, state or local – there is little hope of overcoming the multitude of inequities facing the majority of the population in our country. After leaving elective office, too many of the people we elected almost immediately join the ranks of the lobbyists. The same is true of many political appointees also. When the Constitution and the ground rules for regarding conduct of our elected officials were established, the authors did not worry about the “common man”. Because of that societal omission, there was left only one direct way with which the general public can support a cause or an issue, i.e., by mass written support, or public rallies. Without the wealth to hire an individual to “lobby” the legislature for a cause, one is left with no way to sway a vote in favor of a more equitable outcome.
Inequality of income has many consequences that affect those who are working in minimum wage service jobs. It applies equally as well to those with physical and mental health issues which limit or negate their abilities to work. Thus, the middle class finds it has no escape route.
When 10 percent of the population control the largest share of the national wealth, there is a loss of equality in education, health (both mental and physical), social welfare, loss of will to participate in government, all of which leads to a crumbling of infrastructure in areas across the width and breadth of this land.
The first remedy toward easing the financial inequality of the working class is in the raising of the mnimum wage throughout the nation by passing the Federal Minimum Wage Bill that is now under consideration in Congress. As submitted, this Bill will bring the current $7.25 pre hour minimum wage to $12.00 incrementally and eliminate the current $2.13 per hour minimum wage paid to service personnel who primarily work in the food and hotel industry. The first year, the rate would rise by $.85 per hour; then it will $1.00 per hour for the next four years to reach a $12.00 per hour minimum wage. There are also provisions in the current proposal which will cause the minimum wage to keep up annually thereafter with the average national median wage.
In a study by the PEW Research Center regarding whether people of wealth vote for Republicans while individuals of less means vote for Democrats, it was found that while this hypothesis was true to a degree, the study also revealed that the financially insecure actually tend to drop out of the political picture altogether. (Is this a major factor in the decline of actively participating voters over the last decade?)
Only 26% of the financially insecure could identify the party in control of the U.S. House and Senate. Though they know who our U. S. President is, both by name and ethnicity, many of our younger generation do not know the name of our country’s Vice-President!


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